How to Fix Muscle Imbalances
There is always something to be learned, or at least considered, when looking at other sports and particularly successful athletes who have excelled in their field. Various techniques and training approaches sometimes have some cross-over benefits and, even if you're not looking to sprint like Usain Bolt or rock a pair of huge pythons like Arnold Schwartzenegger, what makes a certain athlete successful sometimes translates across competitive platforms.
Body builders, for instance, understand that their looks rely on having perfectly proportioned bodies. And, although boxing is not about how good you look, having balance in muscular structure and body strength undoubtedly has benefits that apply to the ring.
In the last installment of Balance isn’t Just About Coordination we talked a specific trick to gaining better symmetry in your boxing physique, but there are also some basic strength-building exercise that you can incorporate into your regular routine to help balance you out, physically, as a fighter.
Another approach to creating more strength symmetry in your body is to specifically train muscles you don't ordinarily use day-to-day in the gym. You may say, "Well if I don't use them in the gym then why would I need to train them?" The answer is twofold. For one reason, as stated before, a symmetrically-balanced frame reduces injury by sharing the workload and muscular demands. The second reason is, if you've ever been in actual fight and not just training, you know how sore you can be after that. The reason is that there are demands that happen in the ring in the throes of combat that are more demanding and more varied than what you're doing in the gym. Training to be better balanced will help you be better prepared for what you encounter in the ring.
You can develop those underutilized muscle groups by focusing on exercises that specifically target them. For instance, your biceps don't get used very often in the ring. They are somewhat engaged by extension of the triceps and in uppercuts or when you're holding or clenching, but aside from that, there aren't a lot of direct demands placed on the biceps. So, a nice addition to your workout routine, even if only occasionally, might be an underhanded medicine ball toss. This will place demands on your biceps and provide resistance training that could serve you come fight time.
Another muscle group that doesn't get used quite as often, except in clenching and in throwing power punches are the lat muscles. Adding some basic pull-ups to your routine is a great addition to your training regimen. This exercise will help you to gain that V-shape, which isn't just about looks. The wider upper back that pull-ups can produce will help you gain overall power in your punches. It is one of the body's largest muscle groups so zeroing in on it can only help you.
Another set of muscles that might not be getting a lot of work are your lower back muscles. The muscles in your lower back muscles are important because they help balance out your core. They stabilize your abdominal muscles and help you in the delivery of punches by giving you the ability to gain full rotation on your punch. In terms of boxing, they can also improve your side to side movement, your upper body movement and your ability to absorb punches to the body or head. You can strengthen your lower back muscles by doing inverted twists on a Roman chair or hyper extensions on the floor. Even a basic barbell rowing exercise will increase your lower back strength.
There are an endless amount of options you have for creating muscular balance, but how do you know they’re working? One of the best ways to measure this is, after a strenuous workout, do a body check-up and identify which muscles are not fatigued and which areas of your body have not been taxed. It sounds simple enough, but you know your body better than anybody else, you know what your capabilities are and you know how to identify where those weak spots exist.
No matter how long you've been in the gym you've probably heard a coach or fighter talk about the importance of balance. Being balanced from a coordination perspective is drastically different than being muscularly balanced. Both are critical, but there are 640 muscles wrapped around your skeletal frame. If you want to be fully prepared for anything and everything you could encounter in the ring, you need to engage as many of those 640 muscles as you possibly can. It's a numbers game gang and he who can rack up the most, effective hours in the gym, while consistently performing the best he can for each and every training session, who knows how to train smart, not just hard, is going to be the victor. That's a fact you can count on.